Memories of Freedom (1997? Tucson, AZ. USA)
This was the most inspiring publication I read in the early days of my activism, and remains a gorgeously written account of a small number of young people fighting from underground to make a change. The stories contained herein have become legend, and that sadly is the worst thing about this otherwise classic text.
Originally credited as being written by anonymous members of the “Western Wildlife Unit,” Rod Coronado later admitted being the author. The story was told from his perspective, and while he passionately believed his version of events, there were facts that he was unaware of during the time that the book was written. His recollections are also through a lens of spirituality which bears mention here. Religious fervor tends to skew memory so that events reflect belief rather than reality.
Since the publication of Memories of Freedom, a more journalistic study of the events described in the book has been completed. Ultimately, that study became the book Operation Bite Back by Dean Kuipers. After extensive research and interviews, it became clear that some of the events described in Memories were less spectacular than originally perceived by the author. For example, one raid at the USU Predator Research Facility is portrayed as a heart-warming victory wherein the raiders speak to the coyotes and are assisted in entering the building by the noise raised by the animal they came to save. In reality, the coyotes were highly domesticated and territorial. After being released many of them attacked each other, and required veterinary attention. One was shot, and another killed in the fighting. All survivors were recaptured, and the damage done to the research was minimal.
Memories of Freedom remains the best insider picture of the Animal Liberation Front, but it, like all propaganda, should be read with a critical and skeptical eye. While the stories are beautiful and told from the honest memories of Rod Coronado, they are incomplete in the way that all auto-biographies are. We can only learn from our errors when we are honest about them, and I hope that young activists will look further when they research these and other old publications.